Affordable housing a priority in updated plan

COVINGTON, Ky. - A $3.7 million plan to invest in Covington’s low- and moderate-income areas includes $1.2 million in programs designed to help people buy homes and to create, repair and maintain affordable housing.
The Covington City Commission on Tuesday night approved both the budget for the CDBG/HOME Annual Action Plan for program year 2018-19 and guidelines for three of its housing programs, including expanded boundaries for its Upper Floor Residential Rehab Program.
“From emergency house repairs to new playground equipment to new sidewalks, this plan puts money directly to work for people right where they live,” said Jeremy Wallace, whose title recently changed from Community Development Manager to Federal Grants Manager. “It funds dozens of initiatives and projects that improve the quality of Covington residents’ lives.”
Affordable housing is a top priority. The plan allocates: 
  • $300,000 for about 60 forgivable loans that help homebuyers pay closing costs and make down payments. In the last 10 years, the Homebuyer Assistance Program has helped over 500 Covington families buy a home. The program assists households with annual incomes at or below $43,900 for a one-person household to $62,650 for a four-person household to $82,700 for an eight-person household. 
  • $360,000 to help owners of buildings with first-floor commercial storefronts turn their upper floors into affordable apartments. This consists of $300,000 for new projects and $60,000 for projects that are underway. Developers can receive forgivable loans of up to $20,000 per unit. The program, which initially was limited to areas in and around the Downtown Business District and later around Ritte’s Corner in Latonia, this year will be expanded citywide. 
  • Over $240,000 to help non-profit organizations that partner with the City rehab dilapidated homes to create affordable single-family housing. 
  • $200,000 for emergency repairs to help low-income homeowners - especially elderly, disabled, and veteran households - fix things like furnaces, roofs, sewer laterals, and structural damage when those problems pose threats to health and safety. This consists of $100,000 for new projects and $100,000 for repairs that are under way. 
  • $95,000 to help low-income homeowners who demonstrate a financial hardship to alleviate cited exterior code violations. 
The plan also makes considerable investments in streets and streetscape infrastructure, park improvements, crime prevention, and recreation programs - all in low- and moderate-income areas. Among these investments: 
  • $450,000 in street resurfacing.
  • $200,000 to replace city trash cans.
  • $300,000 for targeted economic development and other work in neighborhood business districts.
  • Almost $133,000 for the rebuild of Latonia Avenue.
  • Almost $163,000 for the reconstruction of Johnson Street near 3rd Street, including wider sidewalks.
  • Almost $330,000 for park improvements, including fencing and roof repairs at Randolph Pool, playground equipment for the Peaselburg Little People’s Playground, and $40,000 for repairs at Goebel Pool.
  • $100,000 for crime prevention and community policing in targeted areas, including City Heights public housing complex.
  • About $100,000 for summer recreation programs for Covington youth and early literacy initiatives for Covington school-age children. 
Where possible, the 2018-19 plan seeks to group investments in targeted geographic areas to make improvements more visible and lasting, Wallace said. “That way, we hope to maximize benefits to neighborhoods,” he said.
Money comes from two federal sources with long but familiar names - the HOME Investments Partnerships Program and the Community Development Block Grant program.
To expend its HOME funds, Covington is part of a consortium of cities that includes Newport, Dayton, Bellevue, and Ludlow. The Northern Kentucky HOME Consortium directs spending in those four cities of a separate budget of about $400,000.
To figure out where to spend its money, Covington collected input from residents, businesses, and other stakeholders in several ways, including a community needs survey, a public hearing, and a public comment period.
“This plan is a collective assessment of what we heard,” Wallace said.
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